Varsity football immortalized in Westlake history with shutout win over Denton Guyer in State Championship

When the Westlake Chaparrals last won a State Championship, none of the players on the 2019 team were born. Led by now New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the Chaps won their first ever State title in 1996. Many great teams have attempted to recreate the ’96 magic and have failed. The last two seasons ended in the State semifinals, but this year was different. Some players said they could tell from the first practice that this year’s team had something more, something that would get them over the hump and put them in the same standing with the ’96 team. 

“On the way here, I wore the Westlake Drew Brees jersey that Sam [Ehlinger] wore to the [2019] Sugar Bowl,” quarterback senior Kirkland Michaux said. “I got in my mojo. It was really cool to have Sam here watching us.”

Maybe it was luck on the team’s side, maybe it was the skill finally paying off, but regardless of how, Westlake came out and held its own in the 2019 UIL 6A Division II State Championship game, and its defensive dominance cemented a 24-0 win over fourth-ranked-in-the-state Denton Guyer.

“Coming so close in the last four or five years, to finally win one, to finally get over that hump validates our process,” defensive coordinator Tony Salazar said. “These kids believed, made plays at the right times, and here we are, State Champs.”

On a simple outside run in the first quarter, Guyer quarterback junior Eli Stowers went down with an injury that kept him out of the rest of the game, leaving quarterback freshman Jackson Arnold to run the Wildcats offense. He was visibly inexperienced and was harassed by the Westlake defense, stalling the Guyer offense into a shutout. 

One of the many big plays that the Chaps had was their second touchdown, a 33-yard throw on the run on fourth down made by Michaux that found wide receiver senior Mason Mangum on a post route in the end zone. Michaux was the offensive MVP of the game, completing 20 of 31 passes for 285 yard and three touchdowns. 

“Throughout the playoffs, we really hit our stride,” Mangum said. “The best teams [get] better every week, and that’s what we did.”

A bright spot for Guyer was the run game, where running back senior Kaedric Cobbs had 162 yards on 28 carries. But despite his best efforts, the offense as a whole wasn’t able to produce any scoring, most evidently when the Wildcats were stopped on two consecutive drives at the goal line in the fourth quarter. 

Cornerback junior Michael Taaffe was a huge performer, winning defensive MVP of the game with an interception and a sack. 

“Coach [Jason] Jones, my cornerback coach, believed in me day one, when no one else did,” Taaffe said. “I thank God, and I thank my parents. Coach Salazar is a genius. I love this Westlake community and all of my teammates, they’re my brothers.”

Head coach Todd Dodge has always said the 2020 class was special, it being the first Westlake class to go through his program entirely, starting as middle schoolers. 

“These seniors were unbelievable,” Dodge said. “So unselfish, so lacking of drama, just a hard-nosed bunch of kids.”

The post game was a blur of celebration for the Chaparrals with photos, group speeches, interviews, heart-to-heart exchanges and more. Ultimately for Dodge, the win was the upmost gratitude he could extend to the Westlake greats who came before him. 

“Every day when I walk into Chaparral Stadium, I tap the red archway that says Ebbie Neptune Field,” Dodge said. “He was my father-in-law on the first [football] staff. It means everything to be able to come back to the place that he built along with coach Kenneth Dabbs, who passed away midseason this year. We put a sticker on our helmets to honor [him]. To be able to win a State Championship when you’re honoring people like that means everything to us.”